Chris Rock, Tessa Thompson, Justin Simien And Others Talk Celebrity Advocacy at Blackout Festival

By Sameer Rao Aug 31, 2015

Many of black Hollywood’s biggest personalities and changemakers convened in Los Angeles this weekend for the inaugural Blackout Festival. The music and film festival, the first from the Blackout for Human Rights collective (which includes Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Donald Glover and numerous other left-of-center black creatives) employed a variety of panels and musical performances to approach its mission of activism and change through intentionally-made art, with a focus on addressing police brutality and related social justice movements.

The entire festival was recapped at The Root, but a number of attendees and presenters shared poignant quotes about the importance of the work the Festival sought to address.

From Chris Rock:

“It’s great and it sad,” Rock said. “It’s great that people are getting involved. It’s sad that they have to.”

From Justin Simien, director of 2014’s acclaimed “Dear White People”:

“The truth is when I made my movie it was in the era when growing up [saying] racial stuff people thought you were playing the black card,” said Simien, whose next project is the film Make A Wish starring actor Anthony Mackie. “Stuff like this legitimizes the kind of conversation that I think some of us in the community didn’t really know how to have before.” 

From Tessa Thompson, star of “Dear White People” and Coogler’s upcoming “Rocky” sequel “Creed”:

“Today’s an incredible opportunity to see work, hear people speak, to be part of the conversation,” Thompson said. “When you’re in the business of making films you hope to be making content that starts a dialogue, but you don’t often get to be part of that dialogue. And so I’m attracted to any sort of experience where I get to directly relate to people.”

From “Beyond the Lights” actor Nate Parker: 

“I went to Ferguson and came back angry and frustrated. And I felt like unless I’m part of the conversation that is progressive, that is going to inspire systemic change, then I need to sit down,” Parker said.  “I try, if nothing else, to disrupt the system that I think is corrupt.”

And lastly, from singer V. Bozeman: 

“I always am an advocate for my people. [I’m about] any cause that’s about making us move forward in a positive way,” she said. “I’m an artist and I like to use my platform. I don’t want my platform to use me, I use it. I’m going to use my voice and the gift that God gave me to uplift my people as best as I can…. I feel that we are being bold and I think that we’re being fearless and I just want us as entertainers to become part of that whole energy and that whole movement.”


Needless to say, we’re excited about the possibility of further film and music that can come from the aftermath of this festival.

(H/t The Root)